Letters

Reasons for not seeing drug representatives

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.319.7215.1002 (Published 09 October 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:1002

They should be seen because they are a good resource

  1. Richard Tiner, medical director ([email protected])
  1. Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, London SW1A 2DY
  2. Dianthus Medical, Mitcham, Surrey CR4 3BA
  3. Department of Anaesthetics, Wycombe General Hospital, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire HP11 2TT
  4. Clinical Research and Development and Medical Affairs, UK, SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire AL7 1EY

    EDITOR—The role of drug company representatives is changing, but Griffith's advice not to see them would deprive general practitioners of a good resource, which would be costly to replace.1 They offer many useful services that may not be easily accessible from other sources in the wider NHS, including up to date information on products and the provision of papers relating to a particular product or disease.

    As primary care groups develop, this contact with individual doctors is likely to diminish, but the representatives' role in helping with the development of a formulary in each primary care group could be vital Their ability to supply up to date information about particular products is also of great benefit to hospital pharmacists in NHS hospital trusts, who are often responsible for maintaining the hospital formulary under the guidance of the drug and therapeutics committee.

    Pharmaceutical representatives are frequently a vital financial resource in the provision of sponsorship for meetings as part of continuing professional development. Indeed, half of general practitioners' postgraduate education is sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry, and much of that sponsorship is initiated by the representatives. The standard of continuing professional development is unlikely to be maintained without that sponsorship.

    Griffith suggests that doctors feel obliged to see representatives and that junior doctors need education on the pitfalls of doing so. There is no evidence for these statements. Indeed, younger doctors frequently have better skills in critical appraisal and are thus more likely to question the representative hard. If he or she does not have evidence based knowledge of the product then younger doctors are unlikely to use it. Doctors could, though, usefully be given education about the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry's code …

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